Friday, April 22, 2022

RIP Michael Olivas: Scholar (Immigration and Much More), Mentor, Friend, and Colleague

I learned earlier today that we had lost a great one, my friend, colleague, and mentor Michael Olivas.  It is with a profound sense of loss that I reflect on how much he has meant to me personally (including to my family, who he always asked about individually by name) as well as professionally.  Michael followed by son Tomas's Little League baseball career and asked for annual updates at the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools, mentored me through tenure, and helped me land the deanship at UC Davis (by calling the Chancellor and putting in a good word). 



Michael was a wonderful scholar, including but not limited to immigration law.  He once was this blog's Immigration Professor of the Year.  The book Law Professor and Accidental Historian:  The Scholarship of Michael A. Olivas (Editor Ediberto Román, 2017) brought together a group of scholars to analyze Michael's path-breaking scholarship.  The publisher encapsulates the anthology as follows:

"Law Professor and Accidental Historian is a timely and important reader addressing many of the most hotly debated domestic policy issues of our times—immigration policy, education law, and diversity. Specifically, this book examines the works of one of the country's leading scholars—Professor Michael A. Olivas. Many of the academy's most respected immigration, civil rights, legal history, and education law scholars agreed to partake in this important venture, and have contributed provocative and exquisite chapters covering these cutting-edge issues. Each chapter interestingly demonstrates that Olivas's works are not only thoughtful, brilliantly written, and thoroughly researched, but almost every Olivas article examined has an uncanny ability to predict issues that policy-makers failed to consider. Indeed, in several examples, the book highlights ongoing societal struggles on issues Professor Olivas had warned of long before they came into being. Perhaps with this book, our nation's policy-makers will more readily read and listen closely to Olivas's sagacious advice and prophetic predictions." (bold added).

In an introduction to Accidental Historian, I offered some thoughts on how much Michael had done for so many, myself included.  Here is that intro.  Download Law Professor and Accidental Historian

Michael also worked for change.  At great personal cost, he created the "Dirty Dozen" law schools without a Latina/o on the faculty.  Michael recruited many Latina/os into legal academia.  He mentored, advised, read drafts of articles, and much more for countless professors of color (myself included).  Among many other service activities, Olivas helped lead an effort to file an amicus curiae brief on behalf of immigration law professors in the Supreme Court in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) case.  As he was in that case, Olivas in my view was  on the right side of the trajectory of history.


There no doubt will be many stirring tributes to Professor Michael Olivas in coming days.  Many will miss him immensely.  I sure will miss my guiding light and guardian angel.  RIP Michael Olivas.


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Rest In Peace cuate!!!

Posted by: Leo Chavez | Apr 22, 2022 6:36:36 PM

Like a large number of Latinx, I owe my many years as a law professor to Michael. QEPD amigo.

Posted by: Rogelio Lasso | Apr 23, 2022 4:39:47 AM

Michael and I went to high school together in Albuquerque… he was one of my oldest and closest friends, certainly the most generous of friends… a Renaissance man for all seasons, who left an indelible mark and an extraordinarily impactful legacy, indefatigably helping, influencing and inspiring countless others along the many routes his journey took (to say nothing of his infectious smile and patented sense of humor). Michael was a prolific, brilliant, multifaceted and innovative author—well captured in the festschrift in his honor, Law Professor and Accidental Historian, in which your Introduction will now serve as an enduring Remembrance. Gracias, Kevin.
God will I miss him. Descansa en paz, cuate.

Posted by: Rubén G. Rumbaut | Apr 24, 2022 1:15:42 PM

I am someone who has benefited from Michael's scholarship, and from his generosity of time and spirit. He actually reached out to me early in my career, and I got to know and cite his work regularly since. As Kevin described, Michael was a tireless in providing commentary and critique to other scholars- even those, like me, outside his field. Michael's activism on behalf of a more brilliant and inclusive academy has also affected my own work. I am sad to hear he's gone, and feel loss with others who sense they are better people and scholars for having crossed paths with him. Lina

Posted by: Lina Newton | Apr 25, 2022 7:10:39 AM

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